Category Archives: virtual reality

Virtual Immortality

From kurzweil.ai:

Where their grandparents may have left behind a few grainy photos, a death certificate or a record from Ellis Island, retirees today have the ability to leave a cradle-to-grave record of their lives, The New York Times reports.

Two major forces are driving virtual immortality. The first and most obvious: inexpensive video cameras and editing programs, personal computers and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

These technologies dovetail with a larger cultural shift recognizing the importance of ordinary lives. The shift is helping to redefine the concept of history, as people suddenly have the tools and the desire to record the lives of almost everybody.

The ancient problem that bedeviled historians — a lack of information — has been overcome. Unfortunately, it has been vanquished with a vengeance. The problem is too much information.

In response, a growing number of businesses and organizations have arisen during the last two decades to help people preserve and shape their legacy.

This reminds me of the Robin Williams film The Final Cut in which Williams works for a company that “edits” a deceased person’s life history recording before giving ( selling? ) it to the person’s family.

Which begs the question “Who has the right to edit a person’s, or event’s history?”

Hey, at least you can be virtually immortal

Robot Rovers To Explore Asteroids and Moons

From kurzweilai.net:

Stanford researchers in collaboration with NASA JPL and MIT have designed a robotic platform that involves a mother spacecraft deploying one or several spiked, roughly spherical rovers to the Martian moon Phobos.

Measuring about half a meter wide, each rover would hop, tumble and bound across the cratered, lopsided moon, relaying information about its origins, as well as its soil and other surface materials.

Developed by Marco Pavone, an assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Phobos Surveyor, a coffee-table-sized vehicle flanked by two umbrella-shaped solar panels, would orbit around Phobos throughout the mission. The researchers have already constructed a prototype.

The Surveyor would release only one hedgehog at a time. Together, the mothership and hedgehogs would work together to determine the hedgehog’s position and orientation. Using this information, they would map a trajectory, which the mother craft would then command the hedgehog to travel.

In turn, the spiky explorers would relay scientific measurements back to the Phobos Surveyor, which would forward the data to researchers on Earth. Based on their analysis of the data, the scientists would direct the mothership to the next hedgehog deployment site.

An entire mission would last two to three years. Just flying to Phobos would take the Surveyor about two years. Then the initial reconnaissance phase, during which the Surveyor would map the terrain, would last a few months. The mothership would release each of the five or six hedgehogs several days apart, allowing scientists enough time to decide where to release the next hedgehog.

For many decisions, Pavone’s system renders human control unnecessary. “It’s the next level of autonomy in space,” he said.

Moon clues

The synergy between the Phobos Surveyor and the hedgehogs would also be reflected in their sharing of scientific roles. The Surveyor would take large-scale measurements, while the hedgehogs would gather more detailed data. For example, the Surveyor might use a gamma ray or neutron detector to measure the concentration of various chemical elements and compounds on the surface, while the hedgehogs might use microscopes to measure the fine crevices and fissures lining the terrain.

Although scientists could use the platform to explore any of the solar system’s smaller members, including comets and asteroids, Pavone has designed it with the Martian moon Phobos in mind.

An analysis of Phobos’ soil composition could uncover clues about the moon’s origin. Scientists have yet to agree on whether Phobos is an asteroid captured by the gravity of Mars or a piece of Mars that an asteroid impact flung into orbit. This could have deep implications for our current understanding of the origin and evolution of the solar system, Pavone said.

To confirm Phobos’ origins, Pavone’s group plans to deploy most of the hybrids near Stickney Crater. Besides providing a gravity “sweet spot” where the mother craft can stably hover between Mars and Phobos, the crater also exposes the moon’s inner layers.

A human mission to Mars presents hefty challenges, mainly associated with the planet’s high gravity, which heightens the risk of crashing during takeoffs and landings. The large amounts of fuel needed to overcome Mars’ strong pull during takeoffs could also make missions prohibitively expensive.

But Phobos’ gravity is a thousand times weaker than on Mars. If Phobos did indeed originate from the red planet, scientists could study Mars without the dangers and costs associated with its high gravity simply by sending astronauts to Phobos. They could study the moon itself or use it as a base station to operate a robot located on Mars.  The moon could also serve as a site to test technologies for potential use in a human mission to the planet.

“It’s a piece of technology that’s needed before any more expensive type of exploration is considered,” Pavone said of the spacecraft-rover hybrid. “Before sampling we need to know where to land. We need to deploy rovers to acquire info about the surface.”

These probes could  be precursors to a sample return mission. A promising area to dig determined beforehand would cut down on cost and wear and tear.

But these rovers could be used on their own for private industry, such as Google Maps in order to give ( and sell ) accurate virtual reality tours to Millenials who wish to sit in their livingrooms and explore Mars safely.

A true pre-Singularity technology.

Acrobatic space rovers to explore moons and asteroids

Canned “E” Primates for Interstellar Travel and a Possible Destination for Them

From kurzweilai.net:

The awesome 100 Year Starship (100YSS) initiative by DARPA and NASA proposes to send people to the stars by the year 2100 — a huge challenge that will require bold, visionary, out-of-the-box thinking.

There are major challenges. “Using current propulsion technology, travel to a nearby star (such as our closest star system, Alpha Centauri, at 4.37 light years from the Sun, which also has a a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting it) would take close to 100,000 years,” according to Icarus Interstellar, which has teamed with the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence and the Foundation for Enterprise Development to manage the project.

“To make the trip on timescales of a human lifetime, the rocket needs to travel much faster than current probes, at least 5% the speed of light. … It’s actually physically impossible to do this using chemical rockets, since you’d need more fuel than exists in the known universe,” Icarus Interstellar points out.

Daedalus concept (credit: Adrian Mann)

So the Icarus team has chosen a fusion-based propulsion design for Project Icarus, offering a million times more energy compared to chemical reactions. It would be evolved from their Daedalus design.

This propulsion technology is not yet well developed, and there are serious problems, such as the need for heavy neutron shields and risks of interstellar dust impacts, equivalent to small nuclear explosions on the craft’s skin, as the Icarus team states.

Although Einstein’s fundamental speed-of-light limit seems solid, ways to work around it were also proposed by physicists at the recent 100 Year Starship Symposium.

However, as a reality check, I will assume as a worse case that none of these exotic propulsion breakthroughs will be developed in this century.

That leaves us with an unmanned craft, but for that, as Icarus Interstellar points out, “one needs a large amount of system autonomy and redundancy. If the craft travels five light years from Earth, for example, it means that any message informing mission control of some kind of system error would take five years to reach the scientists, and another five years for a solution to be received.

“Ten years is really too long to wait, so the craft needs a highly capable artificial intelligence, so that it can figure out solutions to problems with a high degree of autonomy.”

If a technological Singularity happens, all bets are off. However, again as a worse case, I assume here that a Singularity does not happen, or fully simulating an astronaut does not happen. So human monitoring and control will still be needed.

The mind-uploading solution

The very high cost of a crewed space mission comes from the need to ensure the survival and safety of the humans on-board and the need to travel at extremely high speeds to ensure it’s done within a human lifetime.

One way to  overcome that is to do without the wetware bodies of the crew, and send only their minds to the stars — their “software” — uploaded to advanced circuitry, augmented by AI subsystems in the starship’s processing system.

The basic idea of uploading is to “take a particular brain [of an astronaut, in this case], scan its structure in detail, and construct a software model of it that is so faithful to the original that, when run on appropriate hardware, it will behave in essentially the same way as the original brain,” as Oxford University’s Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap explains.

It’s also known as “whole brain emulation” and “substrate-independent minds” — the astronaut’s memories, thoughts, feelings, personality, and “self” would be copied to an alternative processing substrate — such as a digital, analog, or quantum computer.

An e-crew — a crew of human uploads implemented in solid-state electronic circuitry — will not require air, water, food, medical care, or radiation shielding, and may be able to withstand extreme acceleration. So the size and weight of the starship will be dramatically reduced.

Combined advances in neuroscience and computer science suggest that mind uploading technology could be developed in this century, as noted in a recent Special Issue on Mind Uploading of the International Journal of Machine Consciousness).

Uploading research is politically incorrect: it is tainted by association with transhumanists — those fringe lunatics of the Rapture of the Nerds — so it’s often difficult to justify and defend.

The Rapture of the Nerds thing could very well be more of a political sticking point than a technological one in the next few decades, especially in the conservative United States.

However the U.S. has the most advanced robotic tech and DARPA has already developed electronic “telepathy” gear so soldiers can control warfare drones from anywhere on the planet, so it’s not a stretch that semi “autonomous” AI will be in the mix for future space probes in the coming decades.

But there will always be a human being in the loop because no matter how advanced computers become, they will never attain “consciousness.”

Uploaded e-crews for interstellar missions

__________________________________

Just in case we do develop canned “e” primates via mind uploading in the future, there could be a nearby destination for them:

Astronomers have discovered what may be five planets orbiting Tau Ceti, the closest single star beyond our solar system whose temperature and luminosity nearly match the sun’s, Science Now reports.

If the planets are in fact there, one of them is about the right distance from the star to sport mild temperatures, oceans of liquid water, and even life, and slight changes in Tau Ceti’s motion through space suggest that the star may be responding to gravitational tugs from five planets that are only about two to seven times as massive as Earth.

Tau Ceti is only 12 light-years from Earth, just three times as far as our sun’s nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri.

Early SETI target

The Sun (left) is both larger and somewhat hotter than the less active Tau Ceti (right).

Tau Ceti resembles the sun so much that astronomer Frank Drake, who has long sought radio signals from possible extraterrestrial civilizations, made it his first target back in 1960. Unlike most stars, which are faint, cool, and small, Tau Ceti is a bright G-type yellow main-sequence star like the sun, a trait that only one in 25 stars boasts.

Moreover, unlike Alpha Centauri, which also harbors a G-type star and even a planet, Tau Ceti is single, so there’s no second star in the system whose gravity could yank planets away.

It’s the fourth planet — planet e — that the scientists suggest might be another life-bearing world, even though it’s about four times as massive as Earth.

If the planets exist, they orbit a star that’s about twice as old as our own, so a suitable planet has had plenty of time to develop life much more advanced than Homo sapiens.

I have a question; if we ship “e” humans to another star, what is the motivation for them to study a base human habitable planet?

Would they retain primate curiosity or would they be altruistic?

Another Earth just 12 light-years away?

To Test the Simulated World Theory

From The Seattle Times:

It is entirely plausible, says University of Washington physics professor Martin Savage, that our universe and everything in it is one huge computer simulation being run by our descendants.

You, me, this newspaper, the room you’re sitting in — everything we think of as reality is actually being generated by vast, powerful supercomputers of the future.

If that sounds mind-blowing, Savage and his colleagues think they’ve come up with a way to test whether it’s true.

Their paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation,” has kindled a lively international discussion about the simulation argument, which was first put forth in 2003 by University of Oxford philosophy professor Nick Bostrom.

A UW News posting explaining Savage’s paper has gotten more than 100,000 page views in a week, and ignited theories about the nature of reality and consciousness, the limits on computer networks and musings about what our future selves might be like.

Savage has been interviewed by U.S. News & World Report, The Australian and journalists in Finland, and his colleague and co-author, University of New Hampshire professor Silas Beane, has been interviewed by the BBC. UW physics graduate student Zohreh Davoudi also contributed to the paper.

“It’s sort of caught fire,” Savage said.

Bostrom, the Oxford professor, first proposed the idea that we live in a computer simulation in 2003. In a 2006 article, he said there was probably no way to know for certain if it is true.

Savage — who describes his “day job” as doing numerical simulations of lattice quantum chromodynamics — said a chance discussion among colleagues sparked the idea that there was a way to test the truth of Bostrom’s theory.

And although it might deviate from the work he usually does, it was a worthy question because “there are lots of things about our universe we don’t fully understand,” Savage said. “This is certainly a different scenario for how our universe works — but nonetheless, it’s quite plausible.”

In the paper, the physicists propose looking for a “signature,” or pattern, in our universe that also occurs in current small-scale computer simulations. One such pattern might be a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays.

Because this theory is starting to test the limits of this reporter’s scientific knowledge, we are going to rely on the words of UW News science writer Vince Stricherz, who translated the 14-page paper into laymen’s terms:

“There are signatures of resource constraints in present-day simulations that are likely to exist as well in simulations in the distant future, including the imprint of an underlying lattice if one is used to model the space-time continuum,” Stricherz wrote.

If our world is a computer simulation, “the highest-energy cosmic rays would not travel along the edges of the lattice in the model but would travel diagonally, and they would not interact equally in all directions as they otherwise would be expected to do.”

Got that?

In other words, even supercomputers capable of creating a simulation of the universe would be hobbled by finite resources, and one way we might be able to detect those limits is to look for cosmic rays that don’t travel the way they would be expected to travel.

When I first read Bostrum’s treatise in 2003, I thought of all of the science-fiction I had read to that point in order to pick my own brain on the subject. Simulated universes are an old theme in sci-fi and dates back to Olaf Stapledon’s ‘Star Maker’ and possibly earlier to Dr. E.E. Smith’s Lensmen series.

The point I’m trying to make is if it seems like science fiction today, don’t be so sure it still will be tomorrow!

Living in a simulated world: UW scientists explore the theory

Hat tip to Red Ice Creations.

Of the Multiverse, Reality and Fantasy

When it comes to the Multiverse, several folks claim it’s all fantasy and let’s face it, the idea of several Universes just immeasurable millimeters away from our very noses reads like Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz.

But to Michael Hanlon, not only does the multiverse seem like the ultimate reality, it’s populated with any kind of reality that’s ever been theorized.

And then some.

Our understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is changing faster than ever before. Gigantic observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope on the Paranal Mountain in Chile are probing the furthest reaches of the cosmos. Meanwhile, with their feet firmly on the ground, leviathan atom-smashers such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) under the Franco-Swiss border are busy untangling the riddles of the tiny quantum world.

Myriad discoveries are flowing from these magnificent machines. You may have seen Hubble’s extraordinary pictures. You will probably have heard of the ‘exoplanets’, worlds orbiting alien suns, and you will almost certainly have heard about the Higgs Boson, the particle that imbues all others with mass, which the LHC found this year. But you probably won’t know that (if their findings are taken to their logical conclusion) these machines have also detected hints that Elvis lives, or that out there, among the flaming stars and planets, are unicorns, actual unicorns with horns on their noses. There’s even weirder stuff, too: devils and demons; gods and nymphs; places where Hitler won the Second World War, or where there was no war at all. Places where the most outlandish fantasies come true. A weirdiverse, if you will. Most bizarre of all, scientists are now seriously discussing the possibility that our universe is a fake, a thing of smoke and mirrors.

All this, and more, is the stuff of the multiverse, the great roller-coaster rewriting of reality that has overturned conventional cosmology in the last decade or two. The multiverse hypothesis is the idea that what we see in the night sky is just an infinitesimally tiny sliver of a much, much grander reality, hitherto invisible. The idea has become so mainstream that it is now quite hard to find a cosmologist who thinks there’s nothing in it. This isn’t the world of the mystics, the pointy-hat brigade who see the Age of Aquarius in every Hubble image. On the contrary, the multiverse is the creature of Astronomers Royal and tenured professors at Cambridge and Cornell.

First, some semantics. The old-fashioned, pre-multiverse ‘universe’ is defined as the volume of spacetime, about 90 billion light years across, that holds all the stars we can see (those whose light has had enough time to reach us since the Big Bang). This ‘universe’ contains about 500 sextillion stars — more than the grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth — organised into about 80 billion galaxies. It is, broadly speaking, what you look up at on a clear night. It is unimaginably vast, incomprehensibly old and, until recently, assumed to be all that there is. Yet recent discoveries from telescopes and particle colliders, coupled with new mathematical insights, mean we have to discard this ‘small’ universe in favour of a much grander reality. The old universe is as a gnat atop an elephant in comparison with the new one. Moreover, the new terrain is so strange that it might be beyond human understanding.

That hasn’t stopped some bold thinkers from trying, of course. One such is Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University in New York. He turned his gaze upon the multiverse in his latest book, The Hidden Reality (2011). According to Greene, it now comes in no fewer than nine ‘flavours’, which, he says, can ‘all work together’.

The simplest version he calls the ‘quilted multiverse’. This arises from the observation that the matter and energy we can see through our most powerful telescopes have a certain density. In fact, they are just dense enough to permit a gravitationally ‘flat’ universe that extends forever, rather than looping back on itself. We know that a repulsive field pervaded spacetime just after the Big Bang: it was what caused everything to fly apart in the way that it did. If that field was large enough, we must conclude that infinite space contains infinite repetitions of the ‘Hubble volume’, the volume of space, matter and energy that is observable from Earth.

There is another you, sitting on an identical Earth, about 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 120 light years away

If this is correct, there might — indeed, there must — be innumerable dollops of interesting spacetime beyond our observable horizon. There will be enough of these patchwork, or ‘pocket’, universes for every single arrangement of fundamental particles to occur, not just once but an infinite number of times. It is sometimes said that, given a typewriter and enough time, a monkey will eventually come up with Hamlet. Similarly, with a fixed basic repertoire of elementary particles and an infinity of pocket universes, you will come up with everything.

In such a case, we would expect some of these patchwork universes to be identical to this one. There is another you, sitting on an identical Earth, about 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 120 light years away. Other pocket universes will contain entities of almost limitless power and intelligence. If it is allowed by the basic physical laws (which, in this scenario, will be constant across all universes), it must happen. Thus there are unicorns, and thus there are godlike beings. Thus there is a place where your evil twin lives. In an interview I asked Greene if this means there are Narnias out there, Star Trek universes, places where Elvis got a personal trainer and lived to his 90s (as has been suggested by Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York). Places where every conscious being is in perpetual torment. Heavens and hells. Yes, it does, it seems. And does he find this troubling? ‘Not at all,’ he replied. ‘Exciting. Well, that’s what I say in this universe, at least.’

The quilted multiverse is only the beginning. In 1999 in Los Angeles, the Russian émigré physicist Andrei Linde invited a group of journalists, myself included, to watch a fancy computer simulation. The presentation illustrated Linde’s own idea of an ‘inflationary multiverse’. In this version, the rapid period of expansion that followed the Big Bang did not happen only once. Rather, like Trotsky’s hopes for Communism, it was a constant work in progress. An enormous network of bubble universes ensued, separated by even more unimaginable gulfs than those that divide the ‘parallel worlds’ of the quilted multiverse.

Here’s another one. String Theory, the latest attempt to reconcile quantum physics with gravity, has thrown up a scenario in which our universe is a sort of sheet, which cosmologists refer to as a ‘brane’, stacked up like a page in a book alongside tens of trillions of others. These universes are not millions of light years away; indeed, they are hovering right next to you now.

That doesn’t mean we can go there, any more than we can reach other universes in the quantum multiverse, yet another ‘flavour’. This one derives from the notion that the probability waves of classical quantum mechanics are a hard-and-fast reality, not just some mathematical construct. This is the world of Schrödinger’s cat, both alive and dead; here, yet not here. Einstein called it ‘spooky’, but we know quantum physics is right. If it wasn’t, the computer on which you are reading this would not work.

The ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum physics was first proposed in 1957 by Hugh Everett III (father of Mark Everett, frontman of the band Eels). It states that all quantum possibilities are, in fact, real. When we roll the dice of quantum mechanics, each possible result comes true in its own parallel timeline. If this sounds mad, consider its main rival: the idea that ‘reality’ results from the conscious gaze. Things only happen, quantum states only resolve themselves, because we look at them. As Einstein is said to have asked, with some sarcasm, ‘would a sidelong glance by a mouse suffice?’ Given the alternative, the prospect of innumerable branching versions of history doesn’t seem like such a terrible bullet to bite.

There is a non-trivial probability that we, our world, and even the vast extensions of spacetime are no more than a gigantic computer simulation

Stranger still is the holographic multiverse, which implies that ‘our world’ — not just stars and galaxies but you and your bedroom, your career problems and last night’s dinner — are mere flickers of phenomena taking place on an inaccessible plane of reality. The entire perceptible realm would amount to nothing more than shapes in a shadow theatre. This sounds like pure mysticism; indeed, it sounds almost uncannily like Plato’s allegory of the cave. Yet it has some theoretical support: Stephen Hawking relies on the idea in his solution to the Black Hole information paradox, which is the riddle of what happens to information destroyed as it crosses the Event Horizon of a dark star.

String theory affords other possibilities, and yet more layers of multiverse. But the strangest (and yet potentially simplest) of all is the idea that we live in a multiverse that is fake. According to an argument first posited in 2001 by Nick Bostrom, professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford, there is a non-trivial probability that we, our world, and even the vast extensions of spacetime that we saw in the first multiverse scenarios, are no more than a gigantic computer simulation.

The idea that what we perceive as reality is no more than a construct is quite old, of course. The Simulation Argument, as it is called, has features in common with the many layers of reality posited by some traditional Buddhist thinking. The notion of a ‘pretend’ universe, on the other hand, crops up in fiction and film — examples include the Matrix franchise and The Truman Show (1998). The thing that makes Bostrom’s idea unique is the basis on which he argues for it: a series of plausible assumptions, plus a statistical calculation.

In essence, the case goes like this. If it turns out to be possible to use computers to simulate a ‘universe’ — even just part of one — with self-aware sentient entities in it, the chances are that someone, somewhere, will do this. Furthermore, as Bostrom explained it to me, ‘Look at the way our computer simulations work. When we run a simulation of, say, the weather or of a nuclear explosion [the most complex computer simulations to date performed], we do not run them once, but many thousands, millions — even billions — of times. If it turns out that it is possible to simulate — or, more correctly, generate — conscious awareness in a machine, it would be surprising if this were done only once. More likely it would be done countless billions of times over the lifetime of the advanced civilisation that is interested in such a project.’

If we start running simulations, as we soon might, given our recent advances in computing power, this would be very strong evidence that we ourselves live in a simulation. If we conclude that we are, we have some choices. I’ll say more on those below.

First, we come to the most bizarre scenario of all. Brian Greene calls it the ‘ultimate multiverse’. In essence, it says that everything that can be true is true. At first glance, that seems a bit like the quilted multiverse we met earlier. According to that hypothesis, all physical possibilities are realised because there is so much stuff out there and so much space for it to do things in.

Those who argue that this ‘isn’t science’ are on the back foot. The Large Hadron Collider could find direct evidence for aspects of string theory within the decade

The ultimate multiverse supercharges that idea: it says that anything that is logically possible (as defined by mathematics rather than by physical reality) is actually real. Furthermore, and this is the important bit, it says that you do not necessarily need the substrate of physical matter for this reality to become incarnate. According to Max Tegmark, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the ‘Mathematical Universe Hypothesis’ can be stated as follows: ‘all structures that exist mathematically also exist physically‘. Tegmark uses a definition of mathematical existence formulated by the late German mathematician David Hilbert: it is ‘merely the freedom from contradiction’. Hence, if it is possible, it exists. We can allow unicorns but not arbitrary, logic-defying magic.

I haven’t given the many theories of the multiverse much thought in the past few years just because of the different iterations of it.

Although there is some mysticism tied into the quantum physics theory and ultimately the many theories of the Multiverse(s), the “real” world applications of computers ( and ultimately quantum computing ), quantum teleporting and the experiments performed on the Large Hadron Collider in Europe does indeed put critics of the many variations of the multiverse theories “on the back foot.”

Who’s to say there’s no such thing as a mysterious Universe!

World next door

 

Another CIA Vetted UFO “Fiction” Book

As I troll across the InnerTubes, I occassionaly run across an interesting website that features a possibly good story about UFOs, the government  and the CIA.

Robby Graham’s site, Silver Screen Saucers, has an interesting post about a CIA operative who has written a book that is supposedly vetted by the CIA itself.

And it’s questionable validity:

Chase Brandon, a thirty-five year veteran of the CIA, will tonight appear as a guest on Coast to Coast AM with John B. Wells. Many listeners will no doubt be unfamiliar with Brandon and his career with the CIA, but his name has passed my lips literally thousands of times over the past several years.
Brandon spent twenty-five years in the Agency’s elite Clandestine Service as an undercover, covert operations officer. His foreign assignments involved international terrorism, counterinsurgency, global narcotics trafficking and weapons smuggling. He was also an Agency foreign political affairs analyst, Presidential briefer to Bill Clinton and an instructor in paramilitary and espionage tactics at multiple secret CIA training camps.
Brandon is perhaps best known as the CIA’s former Entertainment Liaison Officer – a position that required him to establish working relationships with many of the biggest names in Hollywood and to provide advice to filmmakers on matters of “accuracy and authenticity” with regard to the CIA’s image onscreen. He was – though he prefers to phrase it more sympathetically – the CIA’s chief frontline propagandist in Hollywood. He advised on countless films and TV series – often uncredited – quietly shaping scripts, characters and concepts.
As a great deal of my academic research has been focused on cinematic propaganda efforts, Brandon’s activities in Hollywood naturally have been of considerable interest to me and I have spent many hours discussing with colleagues and writing about the CIA’s role in Hollywood and the influence wielded by Chase Brandon and other CIA advisors in the entertainment industry.
The CIA/Hollywood relationship is a sordid one, and it predates the start of the Agency’s “official” involvement in Tinseltown by four decades. You can read about this relationship in Professor Tricia Jenkins’ excellent new book, The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes film and Television, and I’ll be exploring the CIA/Hollywood symbiosis in great detail in the context of the UFO phenomenon in my forthcoming book, Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies.
With Chase Brandon’s credentials in mind, the UFO community is set to engage in furious debate about this CIA man’s first novel, which is now on sale and is titled The Cryptos Conundrum. It is a “fictional” book dealing with the UFO/ET issue, specifically with the Roswell crash and cover-up. This marks the first time ever that any retired CIA operative has written a book (presented either as fact or fiction) on the UFO topic that has received the Agency’s official stamp of approval. On that basis alone, it’s a must-read.
On the first page of the book, a bold, underlined notice reads:
This material has been reviewed by the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.
But, of course, classified information can’t technically be disclosed if it is presented as fiction. Brandon is gleefully aware of this, and selects as his first quote of the book a musing by Francis Bacon:
“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.”
I’ve read Brandon’s novel. Obviously, it’s intriguing, to say the least, and Brandon clearly wants it to be seen to contain many truths, despite its “fiction” label. Does Brandon have ‘inside’ information on UFOs? It is my assessment that, yes, probably he does. Some. The circles he’s walked in during his career would almost certainly have made him privy to UFO-related chatter; to whispers and suggestions, if not hard evidence. This is not to say the information Brandon might have is true. Most of what he “knows” is likely based on what he’s been told, not on what he’s seen [UPDATE: even though he claims to have seen proof of Roswell with his own eyes]. More than anything, what readers should remember when reading Brandon’s tantalising book is that the author is a trained expert in propaganda and psychological warfare. Buy his book, then, but don’t buy into it.
Scoll down and read the informed comments from readers of the post; you will find the mercurial Collins Elite and the “UFOs are demons” theory pops up again.
Interesting. Does this guy (Brandon) really believe the phenomenon is “supernatural”, or is it classic CIA disinformation?
I’m not going to buy this guy’s book, I’ll wait for it to come to a library.

The Politics of Fear

The 21st Century is one of William Gibson’s dystopic tales.

Or maybe Philip K. Dick, I can’t tell.

Anyway, one can’t deny the fear and anxiety that permeates the air like a thick cloud of smog.

Couple that with technology accelerating toward a Technological Singularity that seems to want to enslave all ordinary folk, well, one can see why people are slowly going insane.

At the center of this? Who knows? Theories go from the politicians, Bilderbergers, Freemasons, Trilateral Commission, to the Jesuits, Catholics, the CFR, all worshipping Lucifer!

The person studying the result of all this fear is Ignorance Isn’t Bliss and he’s made quite a few films on these subjects and my chicken scratchings hardly do him justice:

In the 21st Century we have two primary threats thrown at us. In the blue corner we have man-caused Global Warming, and in the red corner we have Islamic Terrorism. What are the risks and absurdities of each, and what is really driving these agendas?

The intention here isn’t to convince people they’re right or wrong about being liberal or conservative, but to point out how remarkable it is that each side of the agenda setters & policy makers have taken such staunch stances on these opposing issues, and to show the realities of the perceived threats..

These proclaimed threats are complex issues. The point here is to put them into perspective. What can we compare these issues to? How much do we know? What don’t we know? What makes sense? How far should we go? What should we jeopardize? What are the ascertainable risks?

These are the questions that need to be asked no matter the issue, especially if any given issue is to cost into the range of a trillion dollars per year, as regardless we all face total economic collapse. So hang up your preconceptions and political biases for a chance at a better understanding of many things. Let’s try to slow down for a minute, and try to assess what the non-Left/Right biased realities are, while discovering the unifying benefactor in pursuing both objectives as we’re being told to.

Ask yourself when haven’t you seen 2 people dramatize an event between them, and didn’t each have different stories as to what actually happened. Now consider, Democrats are supposed to be anti-war and pro-Global Warming mitigation. Republicans are opposite on both issues. This creates a small selection of scenarios: (1) One side is right about both, making the majority of the other side wrong about what they advocate (consider the odds of over 50 million people being totally wrong on both major issues). (2) Each side is right about what they promote, which makes them each wrong about what they argue against. (3) Each side is wrong about the intensity of what they advocate for, and are overall right about the lack of doomsday threat about what they argue against.

Odds are that either scenario 2 or 3 is the right answer. Then consider how hyped everything always is, and then crunch some odds numbers. Before we explore each issue, consider what is known in academia as the “Politics of Fear”.

A Primer On Fear

In the archetectualization of policy responses to perceived threats, few thinkers actually seem to address their statistical realities, nor do advocates of such policies. Should we listen wholeheartedly the strongest advocates of policy responses to any majors threats? The fact is, humans are aren’t very often ‘logical machines’ with emotions, instead humans are ‘emotional machines’ that think.

The fear reaction reflex is the most overpowering of all neural mechanisms. It’s a hard wired survival system, and when it goes into effect our cognitive abilities to rationally respond are almost quite literally physically incapable of rational thought. This is particularly the case if we don’t understand and acknowledge this inherent feature of quite literally all human brains. Without understanding this you’re almost powerless to suppress it when faced with complex fears.

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There have been countless scholarly papers studying the media-driven Politics of Fear, but you wont hear about these on the news like you would the latest scholarly paper on global warming. Consider the intro of this paper by Frank Furedi:

Fear plays a key role in twenty-first century consciousness. Increasingly, we seem to engage with various issues through a narrative of fear. You could see this trend emerging and taking hold in the last century, which was frequently described as an ‘Age of Anxiety’. But in recent decades, it has become more and better defined, as specific fears have been cultivated.

Fear is often examined in relation to specific issues; it is rarely considered as a sociological problem in its own right. As Elemer Hankiss argues, the role of fear is ‘much neglected in the social sciences’. He says that fear has received ‘serious attention in philosophy, theology and psychiatry, less in anthropology and social psychology, and least of all in sociology’. This under-theorisation of fear can be seen in the ever-expanding literature on risk. Though sometimes used as a synonym for risk, fear is treated as an afterthought in today’s risk literature; the focus tends to remain on risk theory rather than on an interrogation of fear itself. Indeed, in sociological debate fear seems to have become the invisible companion to debates about risk.

Agenda’s tend to be pushed based on how much fear potential they carry, while the metrics of actual risk are ignored. The problem with all of this is the majority of issues trumpetted as primary items have been decreasing for decades, and not just because we’ve been afraid or because of insane funding for various things. In general, itis the issues that we’re most helpless against that are pushed the hardest. Issues like crime, school shootings, airplane crashes, airplane hijackings, terrorism, nuclear armageddon, and a pissed off planet frying us with CO2 that we breath out of our faces are all over-reported based on the actual ascertainable risks.  As fear expert David Altheide explains in his paper “Notes Towards A Politics Of Fear“:

The politics of fear relied on terrorism as a constant threat that can never be defeated; The term “terrorism” was used to encompass an idea as well as a tactic or method. Like the Mafia, it was everywhere and nowhere, all-powerful, but invisible. Crime helped shape the direction for terrorist victimisation. The politics of fear joined crime with victimisation through the “drug war,” interdiction and surveillance policies, and grand narratives that reflected numerous cultural myths about moral and social “disorder”. Numerous “crises” and fears involving crime, violence, and uncertainty were important for public definitions of the situation after 9/11. So perhaps it was natural that the terrorist attacks fed off this context of fear. The drug war and ongoing concerns with crime led to the expansion of fear with terrorism. News reports and advertisements joined drug use with terrorism and helped shift “drugs” from criminal activity to unpatriotic action. A $10 million ad campaign that included a Super Bowl commercial stated that buying and using drugs supports terrorism, or as President Bush put it, “If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America.”

The Politics of Fear is going strong in 2010. The bruhaha over the mosque near the site of the old World Trade Center exemplify this by the inhabitants of New York City expressing their fear and anger with/of the Muslim community. Another example of the meme of fear and anger management by the political class/corporate media is the scheduled Koran burning in Florida on the September 11th anniversary.

Is this what Jefferson and Franklin had in mind when they formed the Republic 234 years ago?

Search within yourselves and answer that question.

The Global Meltdown of FEAR: Eliminated by 60+ visual aids.

Argentina UFO, NASA Dials “M” for “Avatar?”

South America has its share of anomalous happenings and UFO sightings are at the top of the list.

Here is a photo of an helicopter being shadowed by an UFO.

A case study in primitive air travel?

From Prof. Ana Luisa Cid’s website: Photo of an Argentinean police chopper seemingly shadowed by an unidentified flying object. The image was captured by Santiago Molina on February 4, 2010 in the city of Cordoba.

Argentina: Police Copter and UFO

(I saw a police helicopter last night flying over my house, but no UFO. Rats!)

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Mr. Obama’s FY2011 Budget for NASA left a bad taste in the collective mouths of senators and congress-critters from the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas since it cancels the much underfunded and maligned Constellation Program (which has been touted as a welfare program for engineers in these states).

But one feature of this budget is the significant increase of the money going to unmanned science research, including programs like “Project M“:

NASA can put humanoids on the Moon in just 1000 days. They would be controlled by scientists on Earth using motion capture suits, giving them the feeling of being on the lunar surface. I’d pay to use one.

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Geology Training
Back in the Lunar exploration days, scientists had to tell astronauts what to do up there, and how to identify interesting things during the limited time they had. For Apollo 15, the first mission that carried the Lunar Rover, astronauts were trained in field work by Caltech geologist Leon Silver.

That helped them to move faster and look at the ground with a critical science eye, knowing what they were looking for. The result: Their findings and samples were a lot more valuable to scientist back on Earth, confirming theories that weren’t confirmed till then.

Now imagine these NASA C-3POs roaming our satellite, controlled by all kind of scientists using telepresence suits down here, all looking for interesting things using high definition visors, and able to move just like they would move on planet Earth. It won’t work for Mars, but with a communication delay of only three seconds, it will work beautifully on the Moon.

The 1000-day mark is quite plausible, since the mission would be a lot simpler than a human-based one. It will also be quite cheaper than the real thing. First, you don’t have to care about life support systems, which will make spacecraft manufacturing a lot less complex. The whole system would also weight a lot less, reducing the need for the development of a huge rocket, and again reducing the costs.

What about the human factor I’m always defending? Well, we know that, sadly, we’re not going to get astronauts anywhere any time soon, so this is definitely the best alternative. It won’t be as inspiring as humans going back to the Moon or establishing a semi-permanent colony, but it could have an extremely positive effect on science.

Whoever did this at NASA should put together an actual budget as soon as possible. And while you are at it, make it possible for regular people to use one, maybe at the Johnson Space Center or some selected museums through the world. That will definitely inspire people.

Also there is an agreement between NASA and GM to build humanoid robots for tele-operation missions such as Project M.

Hmm..a way around exploring the Moon with real people? Who knows…

NASA’s Project M Puts Scientists’ Avatars On the Moon

Optimism despite the coming Panopticon

As the world plunges further into economic chaos and war being brought about by the world’s elites (few of which actually realizing they shot themselves in the foot), scientific endeavors funded by tax dollars have either reached a rather dystopian turn, or have gone to research that encourage an inward turning of human interests.

But there are still people who dream of an interstellar future for mankind and Paul Gilster is one of them.

In yesterday’s post on his Centauri Dreams site, the dream of finding planets around our closest interstellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, still is on the front burner and not about to be snuffed out yet:

Finding Earth-like planets around any star would be a stunning feat, and either Kepler or CoRoT may deliver such news before too long. But how much more exciting still if we find a planet like this around a star as close as Centauri B? After all, the Centauri stars are our closest stellar neighbors, close enough (a mere 40 trillion kilometers!) to conjure up the possibility of a robotic mission there and, if we play our propulsion cards right in the future, perhaps a manned trip as well.

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Gregory Laughlin (UC-Santa Cruz), on the other hand, armed with a planet hunter’s insights, a passion for the Centauri system, and a realization that patience could tease out faint signals like these, traded ideas with Debra Fischer (San Francisco State) on the possibility of devoting years to an Alpha Centauri search. Fischer is now hard at work, using a telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. She works with a decommissioned spectrometer and other vintage equipment. Call it ‘Alpha Centauri on the cheap.’

On the cheap indeed, most money tied up in astronomical research is done either in NASA, DARPA, Pentagon with a little thrown toward Seth Shostak’s way.

It may take promising early data to get even this modest setup funded after National Science Foundation funds run out in November, but we’ll take the funding problem one step at a time. For now, the precision work continues, with software Fischer herself coded being used to filter out distortions of weather, instrumentation and stellar activity on the target stars to hunt for the minute shifts in wavelength that could signal the breakthrough discovery. If she pulls this off, Fischer’s patience may become legendary.

This is the only good thing about the advanced programming being developed by Microsoft and Google, the ability to clean out distortions made by the atmospheric glare, pollution, dust and lights from cities.

Actually, Microsoft and the Google-Plex are writing these programs to enhance their own new telescopes they are building for Google-Moon and Google-Mars in order to sell more realistic VR tourist jaunts to folks sitting in their Panopticon/Matrix prisons, er…living rooms.

Alright, maybe that’s a little paranoid. But with most of our tax money going to the Pentagon, DARPA and the growing domestic “spy on the public because there’s terrorists there” industry, I think we all should be a little paranoid.

It’s shaping up to be that if we’re going to the stars, it just might be folks like Branson and Musk pushing the envelope because there’s money to be made.

Very Heinlein-like.

And if I remember right, most of Heinlein’s characters hated the government snooping in their privacy.

The Hunt for Centauri Planets

The Yale Law Journal – Escape Into the Panopticon: Virtual Worlds and the Surveillance Society

Download a new telescope

FBI “Going Dark” Program to add $234M in new surveillance technology

Paddling Against the Meme-Stream

m87thunderbolts41609

From Thunderbolts.info:

According to conventional cosmological theories, black holes are formed when a star with a mass approximately five times that of our sun uses up its thermonuclear fuel and collapses under the force of its own gravity. Because the equations that describe gravity can be manipulated in irrational ways, some solutions imply that such a large star can contract into a zero volume containing infinite inertial mass. Astrophysicists have contended for years that black holes are real and that their effects can be observed, although they are invisible to detection.

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The research team’s observations are of Doppler-shifted Fraunhofer lines in the spectrum of J0927. Due to “red-shift equals distance and speed” calculations, the “accretion disk” of matter surrounding the black hole is said to be moving at 2650 kilometers per second. The acceleration is presumed to be from the “recoil” of two black holes colliding, causing them to rebound and fly out of their parent galaxy as a single, supermassive combination of the two.

In previous Picture of the Day articles, we have taken issue with the very idea of black holes and the indirect “evidence” for them that has been presented by the scientific community. Any substance with a “multimillion-degree” temperature is not a gas but is ionized plasma. What the Max Planck scientists fail to realize is that the x-rays they are seeing is synchrotron radiation and not the incandescent glow of hot gas. The x-rays (and the gamma rays and ultraviolet light) are due to electrons spiraling along helical magnetic fields.

The Electric Universe Theory runs counter to the accepted “gravity run” universe theories that are mainstream and I have to say their arguments are very compelling.

A Sea of Holes

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*Sigh*

It looks like Shostak’s “vision” of space exploration is going to be the consensus reality here, unless people get a serious wake-up call:

Swooping in over Olympus Mons, the largest volcano on Mars, you see lava flows and the Pangboche Crater. Opening your traveler’s guide, you find that Olympus Mons is not only the highest mountain on Mars, but the largest volcanic cone in the whole solar system. You hover briefly over the crater and then zoom in on Guzev, where the cute little Mars Explorer Rover (MER) Spirit is busily taking pictures of the very red, desert-like landscape. Yes, little Spirit is still alive!

Is this the “Red Mars” of 2061 from science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson’s famous Mars Trilogy? Where thousands of Earth colonists from completing political and religious groups attempt to implement their visions of utopia? Where megacorporations invest heavily in terraforming and mining, using an orbital space elevator to shuffle settlers out of low orbit to the Martian surface from a resource-depleted, overpopulated, hothouse Earth?

Well, no, not exactly. You can travel to Olympus Mons or Vallis Marineris (the Grand Canyon of Mars) today – from the comfort of your home PC or Macintosh computer using the latest free Google Earth software. Don your 3D gasses and view the latest anaglyph images of Mars recently released by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) or simply fly around where Phoenix, Beagle, and the MER rovers are exploring today.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter continues to send astonishing photos back to Earth. Although other Mars missions have taken 3D images, HiRISE is the most powerful camera to ever orbit another planet. It resolves features as small as one meter across – roughly the scale of a person. “I am very happy!” says principal investigator Alfred McEwen of the “sharp, clear and beautiful” images it produces. Another HiRISE team member says: “If you’re not jazzed by this, you’re not alive!”

Hoo-f*cking-ray, more virtual reality navel gazing. I can’t wait.

Maybe we are living in a Bostrum Simulation.

NASA and the Post-Capitalist Vision of Kim Stanely Robinson

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Somewhere, Bob Heinlein is working for Richard Branson as head of R&D along with Burt Rutan designing moon landers for Branson’s Lunar Hotel business.

There would be none of this silliness going on.

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